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Chicago Workers Open New Cooperatively Owned Factory Five Years After Factory Occupation

Workers at the New Era Windows Cooperative are celebrating the grand opening of their new unionized, worker-owned and -operated business.

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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ricky Maclin, after the first protest—and I remember being there in 2008 covering that when you all sat in—and then the second—the reopening and then the second closing—how did you feel in terms of the prospects for this factory being able to continue?

MELVIN MACLIN: After Serious had bought the old Republic plant?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes.

BRENDAN MARTIN: After they closed down the second time.

MELVIN MACLIN: After they closed down the second time, then Armando and I, we had been having a conversation, and we were discussing the possibility. And that’s where that it really started for me. I thought that it may could work. And we both said, "Well, we have to give it a shot." I mean, because at that time, I believe, I was like 58 years old. So, at 58, I can’t just roll up into a ball and die, so I have to do something. And so, we decided to fight, what we do best. And I remember the slogan, "We win what we fight for." So, we have been fighting for this plant, and today is really a beautiful day. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Armando Robles, talk about what you’re going to make there. Talk about New Era, this New Era Windows Cooperative.

ARMANDO ROBLES: Could you repeat the question for me?

AMY GOODMAN: What are you making at the New Era Windows Cooperative? I mean, how do people get involved? What are the products you’re making?

ARMANDO ROBLES: We’re going to start making replacement windows, vinyl windows and commercial windows—it’s our goal—and for affordable price and a good-quality product for the workers. At the beginning of this, I think we, us, know how to make windows. But after all work done we have at this point, I learned so much in this year. We put a factory in place in all the right spots. Yesterday, we have our check from the city. They checked—the inspector, they inspect the whole building, and they approve us our job. So, not even do just windows, but we would like to make a New Era for the United States, helping people creating cooperatives and create our good-quality and affordable windows for the region and for the United States.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Brendan Martin, I would have to assume that the labor unions alone and labor union members could provide a steady demand for the products of the factory. Have you gotten any—any bites or orders yet from—pressed by other unions or other—or unionized workers?

BRENDAN MARTIN: We have actually gotten early interest in the windows from people in unions, from housing cooperatives, and just from people across the United States and in the Chicago area who support jobs being saved by their workers rather than destroyed by their owners. But without a doubt, we still need more support to come in. So, anybody out there—these are residential windows. Anyone who’s listening can buy them. They fit in anyone’s home. They’ll save you money on your energy bill and pay for themselves in a few years. So, please come to our website, newerawindows.com, participate in this project by buying some windows, and then go out and start your own cooperative. We do have a lot of interest from the community, but we need more of the community to pile in and make this happen.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you very much for being with us, and congratulations on opening day, Armando Robles and Ricky Maclin, workers at New Era Windows Cooperative, and Brendan Martin, president and founder of The Working World. As we move to our last segment—